“The introduction of the Water Services Entities Bill marks the mid-point of the three waters journey” says Raymond Horan, Chief Advisor of Taituarā. “This includes improvements to the current Bill and the development of the second Bill slated for introduction towards the end of September”.
Second Bill on the horizon
Raymond notes that much of the second Bill is to deal with the customer and community facing aspects of reforms that will be the true test of the success of the reforms.
“For many, the real issues are what quality of service they receive, what they pay, and how the water entities will impact on their daily lives”. Raymond said “and these are still to come”.
Matters such as economic and consumer protection, the links between three waters and land-use planning and operational powers (for example, the power to enter a property or the compulsory acquisition of land) are all to come. The Taituarā submission on the Bill draws linkages between the Bill and eight different pieces of other legislation from the Local Government Act to the Rates Rebate Act.
More can be done to improve the first Bill’s responsiveness to communities
And there is still a lot to be done on the first Bill (the Water Services Entities Bill). Seeing everything in black and white has helped us both confirm a lot of what we said at the time the Governance Group report was released, and further clarify where we think the legislation can be improved.
The Governance Group recommendations were a significant step forward on the degree of community voice in the model. Nevertheless, there is more that can be done to make the entities responsive to community concerns. Approximately three dozen of the 57 recommendations in the draft Taituarā submission provide further refinements to the model proposed in the Bill.
We are concerned at the level of top-down direction in the model, and whether this might impede the recruitment of skilled directors. This includes a very broadly drawn power permitting the Government to adopt a Government Policy Statement: Water Services. A further six of our proposed recommendations are intended to enhance the quality of these statements.
The Bill makes privatisation all but impossible, for the moment
We make no comments on the ‘privatisation’ issue beyond noting simply that the Bill as it stands makes this practically impossible, but that it would require only a single vote majority in a future Parliament to change that. Given there is no party in Parliament that supports privatising water assets there should be near total support for entrenching these provisions.
Our submission is now open for feedback
The Taituarā draft submission is now open for discussion with the 78 local authorities and approximately 1000 paid-up members of Taituarā.
As it stands, the draft submission makes 57 recommendations for the Finance and Expenditure Committee to consider. We’re interested in feedback on what you think may be missing, or what you think needs to change.
And just a reminder – Taituarā is a managerial organisation not a political one. The draft does not take a political stance on the water reforms, but focuses on the consequences, and on making the Government's policy decisions work for communities.
Read the draft Taituarā submission. Comments close at 5pm on 13 July 2022. Comments to be addressed to Raymond Horan.
Taituarā updates on the Three Waters reform process
Click here to view all previous Taituarā commentary and submissions on the Three Waters reform programme.